TextCraft: Alpha Island

Here's an exercise in frustration. We've got to survive seven days on a deserted island with only a pair of shorts and our wits. And our typing speed. Because time progresses in this game without player input and WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT OH DEAR GOD WHY?

All right, let's calm down a bit. I'll just put it out there that I REALLY hate timed input in interactive fiction. Sure, we can pause the game here and we can do this after every command, but that's exceedingly tedious.

As a survival game, a major part of it is the husbanding of our health and resources. This, combined with the timer, ups the pressure exponentially: every second spent thinking about our next move is another percentage point knocked off our health and resources. We can't afford to stop and think, which is strange considering a week on a deserted island should afford us plenty of time to figure out a strategy. Also, it seems that the stat derioration accelerates as the game goes on, to the point where simply checking our traps for fish would lay us out for the day.

I must add that many of these locations look way too much like each other. This would not be an issue without the timer, but with the timer and with the attendant stat deterioration, it becomes necessary to hurry. Just seeing a distinctive location name in big, bold letters would have been nice: I don't have time to wade through a paragraph of text to assure me that this place is not that place, nor do I care to hit pause on entering just to gain the time to do so. There were times when I found myself striking out into the open ocean when my actual intention was to follow the shoreline in the opposite direction. But maybe that's just me.

And then there's the crafting mechanic. It's ... got issues, the most obvious of which is that figuring out the desired noun to create can be a matter of reading the author's mind. The other is that this sort of open-endedness is simply asking for trouble. (Why can't I craft a flute from the reeds?) This is why crafting objects in interactive fiction usually involves using one existing object on another existing object rather than creating a new object from a list of existing objects.

There seems to be more story going on than just a question of survival. Every so often, we get a cut-scene thingy telling us about our friend Geoff's work with some sort of time bubble thing. I suspect our island's been sent bouncing around in time by some terrible accident or other. I'm not sure. I confess to not having read every one of them because the game didn't give me the time. I really wish I could have enjoyed it more: it looked pretty cool.

Breakfast? Salted herring, I suppose: the sort of provisions you might bring along on a camping trip. And, of course, campfire coff--OH LOOK 11:01 KITCHEN'S CLOSED NO BREAKFAST FOR YOU.